CREATED FOR COMMUNITY
God has created humanity with a purpose, and I firmly believe that living out Christian faith in the context of community is one of those purposes. All of creation is moving towards a final goal: redemption of creation. God’s will is for the new heaven and the new earth and for all those who love him to live with him in perfection for all eternity. Every aspect of creation has been reconciled (restored to harmony) to God’s will by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Humanity has been reconciled (made right, restored to harmony) to God, and we have been called into community; the height of human existence.
We have been created in God’s own image, part of that means that we are created to live in community the same way that the triune God lives in community as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As parts of the body of Christ, the community of believers is invited to join in the Trinitarian community. The Christian life can not be an individual life, it has to be relational. Even those dedicated to a solitary life (like monks) are joined with others who have the same dedication. Community is often seen as a burden, and it certainly is hard and painful work, but it is a gift from God that can elevate our humanity closer to what God created us to be.
Maybe you’re thinking, “So how do we live in community?” or “What does community mean in our world?”.
Living in an intentional community means more than just being part of a group, or being on a team of some sort. Christian community is eternal and needs to be approached with much reverence. When we enter into community with other believers we take on a responsibility to keep them accountable and to be accountable to our fellow believers. Worshipping together, praying together, and encouraging each other are a few ways to maintain unity. By learning from well known communities through out history we can see that they were bound by more than just these things, they were often bound by a goal or a purpose. The most common type of Christian community is probably justice focused. Many Christians are moved to do something to make the world a better place. By joining a group of like-minded people it is easier to make significant change happen. Ultimately though, beyond being bound by a common goal and purpose, Christian community must be bound by Christ and built on the cornerstone that only Jesus can provide or everything will crumble. The type of community I want to talk about is incarnational community. This is a community focused more on the place and people than the purpose.
Incarnational communities consist of people that are drawn to a certain place to minister to the people there, typically places of great poverty and brokenness.
INCARNATIONAL PURPOSE & SUCCESS
In the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, BC there are many incarnational communities because Christians from all over Canada and the world have been drawn by Christ to this place of extreme poverty and brokenness. This is the ultimate intention of incarnational communities; to find the darkest most broken places and live there to brighten the darkest corners of the world with the flame of Christ that resides within us. Communities that are focused on a place rather than a purpose can have unique challenges because of the apparent lack of direction or progress. A group that has a cause can physically measure the work they are doing, and they can get excited about their progress. But the progress of an incarnational community might be measured in the number of conversations you had, or the number of people you met on the street, or the number of people you had over for dinner. But we can’t just turn people into numbers and statistics to map our progress.
We can’t judge the success of an incarnational community or justice based community by progress made. There are things going on in the spiritual realm that we cannot see. All we can know is that God has called us to live in community as relational beings. God has promised that this will fulfill us and give our lives purpose. If you want to start a community or join a community you can start small. You don’t have to go running to the closest impoverished neighbourhood. Look for groups of Christians and be intentional with each other and talk about living together as a group. Love each other well and God will do a work within your group that you could never imagine.
If you are interested in the idea of community you could correspond with communities throughout the country.
- The Salvation Army has two incarnational communities (called 614), one in Vancouver and one in Toronto. You could contact those communities to learn more.
- Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is typically considered the best book on Christian community.
- Here is a list of other books on community: http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/christian-community
:: by Jared Braund of Vancouver, BC
I’m a student of The War College in downtown Vancouver, living in the 614 community, pursuing God in the poor of the Downtown Eastside. I’m currently living out my passion for the janitorial arts, but would one day like to be a writer.